Insulin Resistance in Horses


Willow wears the Muzzle of Shame. Don’t worry, even though she looks pitiful, she is still able to eat enough through the hole in the bottom to survive. Sometimes, I wonder if the Muzzle of Shame could be used to stop humans from over eating!

Freedom’s pasture-mate, Willow, was recently diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrom (EMS) or Insulin Resistance (IR).

 What does that mean?

According to the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut,

Glucose (sugar) normally functions to fuel many metabolic processes in the body and is the primary energy currency of the body. Insulin is normally produced in response to elevated blood glucose and is key to the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and glucose utilization. Insulin promotes glucose uptake by cells and promotes formation of glycogen or fat. Insulin resistance is defined as a reduced sensitivity of the body’s cells to insulin’s facilitation of glucose uptake.

Basically what happens in insulin resistance is that the cells become resistant to the glucose uptake action of insulin. Initially, this just means that more insulin is needed (hyperinsulinemia) to keep blood glucose concentrations within normal limits after a starchy or high sugar meal. If it is severe enough even super high insulin concentrations are ineffective and blood glucose may also be abnormally high. The problem is that not only does this limit energy availability to the cells but insulin also has other effects on the body that may be detrimental when it is higher than normal for prolonged periods of time. Unlike humans, horses rarely go into the second stage, where the pancreas becomes “exhausted” and no longer can secrete adequate insulin.

In practical terms, this means that Willow, who only gets enough concentrate to mask her vitamin/mineral supplement, must wear a grazing muzzle because too much sugar could cause an episode of laminitis. In fact, it was because her owner felt digital pulses that she ran a blood panel and got the diagnosis.

It didn’t take Willow very long to figure out that this is NOT FUN. She is getting less tolerant about putting it on, although putting a tiny bit of grain in the muzzle is still enough of a temptation to overcome her reluctance. Unfortunately for Willow the new barn has a lot of grass and she’s mighty peeved that her access is now restricted.

I tried using a muzzle on Freedom when I first got him – not because I need to restrict his eating, but as a way to stop him cribbing. That lasted about 5 minutes. He destroyed two or three grazing muzzles in short order and then refused to let me near him him with a halter.

Have you had to use a grazing muzzle on your horse or pony?

Supplements Made Simple | The Chronicle of the Horse

Supplements Made Easy

Do some of these supplements sound like what you’re looking for?

This is such a wonderful “take” on supplements. I had to laugh out loud.

My particular favorites are below, but Freedom could definitely use “Calm the Hell Down”.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Ideal for the overly-compliant horse who is more interested in pleasing you than saving either of your skins. BCWYAF invokes a mild sense of suspicion, and when fed regularly may result in actual survival instinct. Works best when both horse and rider are supplemented; we recommend maximum dosage for amateur riders.

Is your equine partner too smart for his own good? Does he open gates, untie knots and calculate how to lose shoes only when the farrier is out of town? Do you swear he can log into your calendar app to see your show schedule so he knows when to go lame? Does he just seem to know what you’re thinking before you know it yourself? He needs Dumb-down. Like a liquid lobotomy, Dumb-down’s exclusive, neuro-transmitter destroying formula works to synergistically suppress higher-level thought processes. Let Dumb-down put YOU back at the top of the evolutionary chart. Mildly hallucinogenic for a long-lasting, pleasantly disorienting effect.

Supplements Made Simple | The Chronicle of the Horse.

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Pot

Honey pot

Curly had the bucket stuck on her nose for a minute or two. Sadly for her, it was empty.

Yesterday the horses got fall shots, including the dreaded Strangles intranasal vaccine. This year we have no stalls, so convincing horses that they wanted to stand still while the syringe is stuck up their noses was, well, challenging.

Curly, usually the mildest member of our herd, is the most difficult when it comes to the Strangles vaccine. She can sense that it’s coming and, even when in a stall, she does not make it easy.

The options: bribery and a rope twitch. Curly is very, very motivated by food. So she got a handful of grain to set the mood. Then she had the twitch applied to her nose (don’t be too worried about her, the action of the twitch releases endorphins and it’s over in less than a minute). Bingo, the vaccine was administered and no one got hurt (I’m shocked when my vet tells me

Winnie the Pooh

The classic Winnie the Pooh illustration of Pooh getting his head stuck.

that some people refuse to twitch their horses, preferring, I suppose, to let the vet take the brunt of displeasure.)

After the traumatic event, Curly got a bit more grain. I left the bucket on the ground and turned around to see it hanging off her nose! It didn’t worry her in the least. Just like Winnie the Pooh and his honey pot.

Settling In

Zelda and Curly explore

Zelda and Curly explore their new pasture.

Stage two of the big move took place today. Zelda and Curly joined Freedom and Willow at their new home.

Zelda went over first (Curly has some stability issues standing in the trailer so I decided to take them separately).

There was much rejoicing when she saw her old friends, including a good old run in the pastures. Zelda sounds like a freight train coming up that hill! Freedom always amazes me by how lightly he moves over the ground, even at a gallop.

Old friends

The horses reconnected over the fence line. There was a lot of sniffing and squealing.

Curly traveled over in fine form and soon she too was reconnecting with her old friends.

Once they’d caught up with the gossip, they took a few more passes up and down the field. One good thing about this much space — they’ll all stay a lot fitter.

I love watching them run. It’s so nice for them to be in a place where they can really let loose.



First the good news


Freedom’s injured foot is so much better. It will still take a long time to fully resolve, but at least the gaping wound has healed.

You might remember that Freedom stepped on his foot a few months back. It happened in the blink of an eye and the wound took forever to heal. Back in January, I reported that we were having issues with proud flesh (Bad Luck Comes in Threes). The good news is that it’s finally better. Two months of deep snow helped keep it iced and clean. A nifty product called PF Wonder Salve, applied every couple of days, helped it heal. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it would have been had the horses been ankle deep in mud.

There will be some long term implications: the hoof capsule is distorted and he will need some extra support as it all grows out, but I’m thrilled with the progress.

PF Wonder Salve

The product helped the wound heal and restricted the growth of proud flesh.

Of course, the bad news is also a result of the snow. While Freedom’s front hooves look good, his hinds are not-so-great. Normally, in the winter I pull his shoes and he emerges in the spring with beautiful feet. The nail holes grow out and the hoof is generally hard and healthy.

Not this year. The hard ground we had earlier left him with very little hoof wall to nail to and bruises on his soles. The deep snow and the cold have meant that he hasn’t moved around much, even though he’s been turned out. Certainly the snow has helped cushion his feet but little movement = less growth. I’ve started him on a hoof supplement and I’m hoping that now that it’s starting to warm up, he’ll start to move around more and get the blood flowing through those hooves.

I haven’t been able to ride since January, so I don’t know yet how tender his feet are under saddle. I’m thinking that he may need hoof boots in the spring to keep him comfortable — those, or glue on shoes. I’ve heard really good things about glue ons in every aspect except for price!

Have any of you tried them? It will be awhile before his hind feet can hold shoes and with his tender TB soles, he will need some protection.

Fun in the snow . . . or not

Here you can see the relative size difference between Zelda and my dog, Woolly Mammoth (aka Woolly).

Here you can see the relative size difference between Zelda and my dog, Woolly Mammoth (aka Woolly).

How much fun you are having in this latest snow depends considerably on your size.

Zelda loves it. She’s fully of energy and although she doesn’t race around for long, she gives some good bucks and rears, trying to convince Curly to join in.

Curly was having none of it this morning, so Zelda tore around the paddock on her own for about 3 minutes (until she tired herself out).

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When Woolly saw Zelda hightailing it around the field, he did the smart thing (I thought) and got the hell out of Dodge.

Unfortunately for him, he decided to stray off the path into fresh snow. The result? He got stuck until I could rescue him and make a new path. Lucky for him I noticed he was missing! Sadly for him, I think he’ll need to stay home until some of the snow melts.

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More snow

The horses were out in the snow, not much bothered by the bitter cold. It’s actually a good sign that their blankets are covered in snow; it means they are well insulated.

Just when we’d almost dug out from the last storm, we’ve been hit by another.  This one came with less fanfare, very few ominous warnings in the media, and no driving ban but it dumped almost as much snow on us and left the roads nearly impassible.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to walk to the barn today because I think that the high temperature today was 11 degrees!

The horses were fine, although they didn’t get their breakfast icicleuntil it was quite late. They were out in the snow and looked more like icicles than horses.

Freedom in particular was dripping with icicles.

Let’s look at the bright side. With all the snow, the laceration on his foot is staying clean and it’s giving his hooves (which were tender and cracking from the hard ground) a chance to recover.

snowshoesBut I’m ready for the daily high to be more than 15! But I’m going to keep my snow shoes handy for the foreseeable future.

Snowpocalypse 2015


I really spooked the horses when I showed up wearing snowshoes. There was lots of snorting and wild eyed stares!

While we didn’t get quite as much snow as predicted — forecasters were making noise about 2-3 feet. We sure got plenty! We woke up to about 18″ of snow this morning and got another 2-3″ throughout the day. I live about a mile from the barn by road and about half a mile if you go cross country on the trail system.

Hindering my progress to the barn this morning was the driving ban. No cars are allowed on the roads unless you have a sanctioned purpose. I waited for the highly anticipated noon press conference by the Governor, but no luck. Then I hoped that if I called the police station they would sanction the short drive, especially give we have a 4WD truck. But no, there was no leeway there. I explained I had to feed horses, that they were waiting for me. But there was no sympathy. I asked if they would send an emergency vehicle to rescue me if I walked over and became incapacitated. They said they would, so I headed out.

Normally the barn is about a fifteen minute walk from my house. It took me about 45 minutes to slog my way over. Luckily road up to the trailhead was plowed, so I had only the “short” stretch through the woods to get there. I’m not sure my snowshoes helped much: the snow was so fluffy and light that I sank all the way through. And that necessitated many stops along the way to catch my breath, unzip my jacket because I was overheating. Zip up my jacket because I was cold, etc. Good news? I had a helluva workout!

Freedom covered with ice and snow

Freedom was covered with ice and snow. It didn’t bother him at all!

When I got to the barn the horses were fine. Snow? Cold? Doesn’t bother them. Freedom was literally dripping with ice and snow, and was oblivious to it.

Of course, they were terrified of me because I was wearing snowshoes — apparently they turn me into a fire breathing dragon — but the promise of food got them over it. Since it was likely to be there only food-delivery visit today, I left them with plenty of hay and a few candy canes.

Path thru the woods

The path through the woods toward home. It’s usually a short walk, but it seemed very long today

The walk back was better. I’d packed the snow down pretty effectively and didn’t have to stop so much on the way back. The best part was when I got to the road. My husband had brought the snowblower to the end of the street and created a path through the huge snowbank left by the plow. I was so tired by then, and so not looking forward to climbing through/over it again. The last five minutes of the walk were a breeze!

Thank goodness the travel ban will be lifted at midnight tonight. Another day without being able to drive would really try my patience.